Updates from Mall Galleries Art Consultancy - specialising in commissioning and curating fine art for private collectors, corporate clients and interior designers.

Portrait Painting Commissions Continue to Flourish

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Portrait commissions remain an important art form and co-collaboration between artist and sitter. The Royal Society of Portrait Painters, for example, placed a record number of commissions again last year, up by over 24%, despite the onslaught of the smartphone, Snapchat and the selfie.

Unlike a reflection in the mirrors or a photograph, the painted portrait is the distillation of many moments and is interpreted through the imagination of an artist, so a portrait often teaches us to see somebody differently.  A good portrait not only captures something essential about a person, it can also reveal unseen aspects of a personality or physique. Very often seeing a portrait for the first time is therefore disconcerting, it takes time to learn a new way of seeing mediated by the artist and the medium.

It is not just the commissioning of portraits that flourishes, historical portraiture is also still in vogue. Last year, for example, an exhibition of Rembrandt’s later portraits attracted over a quarter of a million visitors, and exhibitions of portraits by Goya and Sargent were also hugely popular.  Looking back, Rembrandt portraits took centre stage at the National Gallery in 2014, Manet at the Royal Academy in 2013 and Freud at the National Portrait Gallery in 2012. Portrait painting seems to be a growing and popular genre.

An artwork commission is a personalised experience that is different for everyone, at Mall Galleries we employ Commission Consultants to guide you through the process of commissioning an artwork from choosing an artist to choosing an artwork that is suitable for your home or business.

If you would like to find out more information regarding commissioning an artwork or book a private consultation, click here.


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Robbie Wraith RP, Anna, Profile (detail)

Commissions: What Artists Should Know


Not all artists like to work to commission, for some artists it is a constraint and compromise. For others it is an inspiration, a discipline and an enjoyable collaboration. It is worth experimenting with working to commission to find out which category you fall into before committing to it.

The key difference between a commission and a non-commissioned work is the patron’s part in the creative process. It is hard to generalise about art commissions but the one consistent thing with commissioned work is that communication and the management of expectations are key elements for a successful outcome.

The level of collaboration that suits an artist differs; some artists like their work to be truly collaborative throughout, whereas others reveal their work only once it is finished. There is no right or wrong way, but you do need to work out where you are on that scale and set some up-front ground rules on the level of engagement accordingly. 

Before you begin a commissioned work, the parameters of the commission and a pricing outline need to be agreed with your patron. Size and medium are usually the easy part and can be established by email. The subject matter and its treatment are more subtle so is best done face to face if possible. For a portrait, you will need to have discussed what the sitter is to wear and the environment in which they will be set as well as the practicalities of sittings.  Because the language people use to describe art is not well developed, it can be difficult to communicate a concept. It is important to listen to your brief very carefully and to stick to it unless by agreement. I find that sketches are a good way to ensure that the ideas in your patron’s mind are close to those in yours.  

Preparatory drawing by Andrew James

Copyright belongs to the artist unless it, or part of it, is assigned to another person. This is not something that a client is often aware of. It means that they can’t reproduce the work they commissioned without your permission.  Commercial reproduction would rightly carry a fee but you may however wish to encourage other forms of reproduction because it is likely to be in your interest if your client were to promote you by putting your work up on their Facebook page or create personal Christmas cards.

Copyright and the broader rights enshrined in intellectual property law should be discussed early in the process.

Once the details are established, the client will need a quote. As an emerging artist, it is good to remember that each happy patron and each work hung on the wall is an advertisement for you, so it is best not to overprice. There are usually two elements to the pricing, your fee and your expenses.  Framing, delivery, travel and accommodation are usually itemised separately at cost. Contracts are very useful for agreeing what the expectations are and preventing problems due to misunderstandings.

Many artists take a deposit before starting work, partly to make sure that their patron is serious about the commission and partly for cash-flow reasons.  Others prefer not to be tied so that either party can walk away from the commission if they need to.  Three staged payments can be made for larger works but a single second final payment on completion is more normal.  

James Lloyd starting a portrait

Portraiture is one of the most frequently commissioned genres.  Broadly speaking for ‘from life’ work, six to ten sittings of 1 and 1/2 to two hours would be normal. If you use photography you are likely to need fewer sittings. These can take place either in the studio or at the client's location. It is wise to employ basic safety precautions for lone-workers, such as letting somebody know where you are going, whom you are with and when you are expected to return.

Once the work is finished, it can be useful to manage expectations by showing the client a .jpg of the image for approval before delivering the work. 

An artwork commission is a personalised experience that is different for everyone, at Mall Galleries we employ Commission Consultants to guide you through the process of commissioning an artwork from choosing an artist to choosing an artwork that is suitable for your home or business.

If you would like to find out more information regarding commissioning an artwork or book a private consultation, click here.

Diana Bell on Public Commissions for the Community


Diana Bell is an experienced commissioned artist.  Here she talks to us about commissions in the public realm.

Diana Bell specialises in creating work for public spaces. Context is crucial to her work, and her pieces are situated outside of the gallery, rooted in the world. She is fascinated by what it means to be human, and the relationship between humans and their environment. Public commissions enable Diana to explore the human condition whilst inviting the public to participate in the making of her work. 


Public Commissions that involve the Community

Diana’s favourite commissions are those that involve collaboration with the public. 

Diana Bell, Together

Her figurative sculpture ‘Together’ was commissioned in 2007 by Lidl Supermarket and reflects the community of Blackbird Leys. Through working with primary schools, youth groups and an art group, she created a sculpture to depict a supportive community that depends on each other.

Diana Bell, Together

Breaking out of the gallery space 

‘Context is everything’ 

Diana’s public participation pieces depend on particular contexts that root her artwork in the world. Her work encourages people to respond. By moving her work out of a gallery space into the outer world, it must adapt to new challenges, fit into the world around it but also compete with everything in a public space.  

One of Diana’s favourite commissions was ‘The Big Book’. In 2010 Dianna created a 2.2 metre book where the public were invited to step from reality into the book and release their imagination in words. The book began its journey from the Bodlean library in Oxford, and has since travelled to thirteen venues, including Liverpool, Birmingham, Bath and Berlin. In Berlin it was situated in a square next to where the Nazis burnt books during the Holocaust, evoking a powerful significance between the artwork and its location.


Diana Bell, The Big Book

Opening up conversations 

‘You can have a philosophical conversation with almost anyone on the street which is so exciting’

Diana worked on ‘The Big Book’ unexpectedly for five years, collecting approximately 5,900 contributions in 63 different languages. She continues to collect stories from the public in ‘The Big Question Mark’, a project that invites participants to go on a symbolic journey whilst answering questions about their origins. The audience has an integral part in the creative process, enabling them to be both participants and creators.

Commissions that begin with an idea 

‘Where do ideas come from? I don’t know where they come from. They just come, I suppose’

The process of commissioning is an evolving one, which can take interesting turns of direction. Diana views commissions as an exciting journey that can lead to a wealth of possibilities. Whether an idea originates with the artist, or a community, company or an individual, it involves working together in a dynamic process of collaboration. 


By Sophia Siddiqui

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Diana Bell, The Big Book

Creative Commissions and Urban Portraiture


Michele del Campo is an Italian figurative painter. He was selected for the Columbia Threadneedle Prize in 2009 and is a frequent exhibitor at the Mall Galleries. We spoke to Michele about the creative and collaborative process of commissioned art.

Michele works on a large scale, creating huge canvases of bold colour with an emphasis on human gesture and environment. Infused with colour, youth and energy, they express a striking immediacy and sensuality. He approaches every work as a new and unique challenge. He constantly experiments, searching for new imagery, new textures, new colours. He often works intensely through the night, sometimes not stopping until 3am. The painting process usually takes around a month, but the entire project can take up to six months to complete as he likes to take his time to fully explore his theme, visiting locations, choosing models, taking several photographs and building up his composition before moving into the studio. 

Michele del Campo in his Studio

For Michele, his life is very much his art: “Art is my world, it’s not a weight but a thing to enjoy.” His studio is very much a social space, he invites friends to model for him or to join him in life drawing sessions. His works themselves often draw on his own relationships and encounters. Some are even autobiographical recreations, dramatic re-stagings of events from his own life. Inspiration also comes from other artists - he admires the poetical solitude and intense atmospheres of Edward Hopper, the melancholy of N.C. Wyeth and the boldness of Eric Fischl. For style, he turns to contemporary painters Antonia Lopez Garcia and Liu Xiao Dong, appreciating their realism and precise brushwork. 


Commission Case Study: ‘The Rest’

Michele del Campo, The Rest

Michele greatly enjoys the process of commission, believing that it offers new and unexpected perspectives for his work. He views the process as dialectic, enjoying the creative discourse it provides between patron and artist. He believes the creative process is enriched by the imposing of limitations, by working within a framework provided by another.

Michele Del Campo, The Rest in home

Michele created this image of two siblings for a Spanish client - the mother of the children - who was already an admirer of his work. Her dream was to have a painting of her two children in his style. She didn’t dare to ask Michele at first, not knowing whether he worked on commission, but fortunately she eventually dropped enough hints! Michele grabbed the chance to get out of his comfort zone, having never painted children before. It is this which he enjoys most about the process of commissioned art - the possibility of exploring new challenges, new territories and new forms of imagery. The combination of the two siblings appealed to Michele and he was happy to accept the proposal. He travelled to Madrid and spent a couple of days location-scouting for the perfect place to photograph the children. The final picture is actually a composite work, with Michele combining his favourite images of each of the children with a graffitied backdrop scene from London. Michele draws on skills learned from his education in photography and film-making to create the perfect final image. He almost takes on the role of a film director, combining all the right elements - location, figures and the objects which surround them - to create the final composition on Photoshop before he begins to paint. 

Michele del Campo, The Rest in Studio Tent

Since completing ‘The Rest’, Michele has gone on to paint many beautiful portraits of children. He is currently at work on for a large family portrait of two parents and five siblings in a swimming pool and a very challenging commission featuring two very young and hyperactive children! To commission your own portrait from Michele, please contact our Commissions Consultants.

Michele del Campo trained in Fine Art and Illustration in Madrid, Falmouth, Dundee and Milan. He exhibits internationally and his work will feature in the upcoming London Art Fair in 2016. His work was selected for the Threadneedle Art Prize in 2009 and he won the Winsor and Newton Oil Prize at the Mall Galleries’ Royal Society of Marine Artists Exhibition in 2012 as well as Second Prize in our Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 2013. He also featured in our Originals10 Exhibition in 2010 and this year’s Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition.

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Michele del Campo, The Rest (detail)

Mall Galleries Art Consultancy for Interior Designers


As the national focal point for contemporary figurative art Mall Galleries is a perfect resource for interior designers. With 30 years of experience and over 800 artists on the books, our art consultants have the knowledge and expertise both to source and commission artwork for interiors. 

Sue Williams A'Court, Urban Flowers

Sourcing Artwork

You know what you want, the trick is to find it. And that’s where we come in. Unlike a traditional commercial gallery we don’t represent a small selection of artists, but rather a body of Art Societies comprising of hundreds of member-artists. You can search our Artist Explorer for ideas or alternatively ask our art consultants who are still the best algorithms around. We’ll source what you are looking for quickly and easily, drawing both on our depth of knowledge and extensive databases.

Miriam Escort RP, Lorenzo

Commissioning Artwork

Commissioning is an involved and sensitive way of buying art for your clients. An artwork commission is a personalised experience that enables the buyer to take an active role in the development of a piece of work, perfectly suited to the space in mind.  Here we don’t just act as an introductory service but as a mediatory support, facilitating communication between yourselves, your clients and the artists. We oversee everything from development to production, ensuring all artwork is in keeping with your vision. We also handle contracts and related administration so you don’t have to. 

If you would like to know more about our service, you can book a consultation at your premises or ours.

Hugo Grenville, Sleeping Nude: Summer (photo credit: Andrew Ivan Green)

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Chris Rose, St Mary's Seals (detail)

Eleanor Watson on style, interiors and commissions


Eleanor Watson is a contemporary British painter. She exhibited at the Mall Galleries in 2013 and was a featured artist in our Penguins Commission for the Pension Insurance Corporation. She creates extraordinary images of interiors, devoid of figures, yet peopled with intense colours.

On Style 

I build pictures out of colour. I see my works as forming shapes of colour, or a series of patterns, rather than modelling an interior. I enjoy the trickery of the illusion of depth on a flat surface. Colour is the most important aspect for me, but my works are also quite linear - they have a very strong graphic feel to them. 

Eleanor Watson, Formerly 

On Interiors

I’m generally interested in enclosed spaces but I look at a lot of different work for inspiration, not just interior paintings. I’ve always been interested in interiors ever since I played with dollhouses as a child! Interiors are a complex thing, primarily they house you but obviously we have more rooms than we need and the decoration, furniture, objects are all a projection onto space of your personality, your choices, your social standing - all of those things. And they can shelter you and keep you from the outside world. I think the reason they appeal so much to me is the hope of creating a psychological, contemplative space, a place that you kind of explore in your mind without literally entering into - it’s an illusion, an imaginative space.

I’d love to work alongside interior designers - interior design fascinates me because it’s almost the opposite of what I do. To be able to design something for a space that works from different viewpoints and with different lighting, different textures, is really amazing. 

On Commissions

I’ve really enjoyed my experiences of commissions so far. I’m always conscious of audience. It’s impossible to completely block those thoughts from your mind, not to think of the reception the painting will get, and I think this becomes more pronounced when you’re working on a commission - you’re always considering someone else’s point of view so you have a slightly different relationship with the work. I think it’s important to be clear about what the commissioner wants and how willing I am to paint in that way. My past commissioners have always been very favourable to the way I paint and have chosen absorbing subjects so its worked really well. As long as I’m interested in the subject matter then I’m happy to paint!

Commission Case Study: ‘Fragment’ and ‘Unlocating’

Eleanor Watson, Fragment

These works were a commission for someone I knew. They had the most amazing house in Soho which they were sadly leaving and they wanted pictures of their house, in my style, to commemorate it. We had a conversation about particular aspects, or particular viewpoints that they responded to in the house and then they left me to my own devices. It was a really interesting project and they were very relaxed about how I approached it - they just wanted my work of their house. It worked really well and they seemed to really like them - they’re still up on their walls so that’s a good sign! I felt honoured because it was such a special space for them, their home. 

Eleanor Watson, Unlocating


Interviewed by Sasha Stamp

An artwork commission is a personalised experience that is different for everyone, at Mall Galleries we employ Commission Consultants to guide you through the process of commissioning an artwork from choosing an artist to choosing an artwork that is suitable for your home or business.

If you would like to find out more information regarding commissioning an artwork or book a private consultation, click here.

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Eleanor Watson, Formerly (detail)

Columbia Threadneedle Prize Artist's Tropical Birds Take to the Sky for Two Corporate Commissions

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At the end of October the annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists, The Natural Eye, will be returning to Mall Galleries. We spoke to Fran Giffard about her recent trip to Réunion Island.

It’s been a busy and exciting year for artist Fran Giffard. Drawing penguins for a corporate commission, showcasing her art at solo exhibitions and travelling overseas to sketch exotic wildlife are just some of things she’s been doing. 

Earlier this year she was invited by TV production company Endemol to go to Réunion Island to be part of a short tourism film promoting the country to holidaymakers. The organisers wanted footage of various people at their professions on the island – there was a chef, singer, scuba diver, hang-glider and Fran, who took on the role of a hiking artist at work.

Sun Conure by Fran Giffard

She thoroughly enjoyed the experience, delighting in the lushness and exoticism of the island and its indigenous wildlife. Being asked to sketch naturally as they filmed, she saw birds she hadn’t come across before, and ones she had – Fran was pleasantly surprised to see birds similar to those in her homeland Bermuda, like the White-tailed Tropicbird.

Fran usually works in her South London studio, using photographic material for reference, so drawing out in the open from direct observation was an exciting new challenge for her. The birds would only be in sight for a few seconds as they flew overhead between the trees, but Fran says she managed to catch fantastic glimpses of their colourful underbellies. She was able to combine these moments with her prior knowledge of bird anatomy, obtained while working on previous commissions, to create her sketches.

Cockatoo by Fran Giffard

Fran had used this direct observational technique when taking part in what she names her favourite ever commission – the imaginative project for the Pension Insurance Corporation (PIC) who had asked Mall Galleries for artworks of penguins, the company logo.

She says she was a little nervous at first at the prospect of drawing the black and white penguins, as bright colouring and birds in flight are usually the focus of her work. However, she found that the dynamicity of penguins’ fluidly moving bodies was fantastic to sketch, as they look as if they’re flying when swimming in water.

Gentoo Penguins over Moleskine Diary by Fran Giffard

Fran says that the PIC commission has fuelled her inspiration for further artworks by widening her artistic vision of different potential subject matter, such as the monochrome penguins.

Interviewed by Jess Baxter

An artwork commission is a personalised experience that is different for everyone, at Mall Galleries we employ Commission Consultants to guide you through the process of commissioning an artwork from choosing an artist to choosing an artwork that is suitable for your home or business.

If you would like to find out more information regarding commissioning an artwork or book a private consultation, click here.

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Fran Giffard, Crimson Rumped Toucanet (detail)

Westbourne Communications’ - a fine art display to reflect company values

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I just wanted to pass on all the amazing comments I have had regarding the art in the office. Everyone loves it – we even had a client in the other day that recognised the landscape in the small room as being his home town!

- Harriet Shaw at Westbourne Communications

Working in the opinion-changing business, Westbourne Communications knew that the art in their office could be doing more for them. They asked Mall Galleries to source a changing display of fine art pieces for their board room and reception area, to reflect their success, creativity and dynamism.

Mall Galleries source paintings for the Westbourne offices from our ever-changing exhibitions and our long-established links with artists across the country. Being local to the gallery, Westbourne Communications' staff receive invitations to the private views at the gallery and have the option to choose the works on their wall from a selection curated for them by Mall Galleries Art Consultants.

All curatorial advice, legalities, invoicing and installation are handled by Mall Galleries and we have seen an enormous amount of success with this curated art display in flux, which has engaged both staff and clientele alike.

Contact our Art Consultancy Team to learn more about art rental and our curatorial services.


St Mary's Seals Chris Rose SWLA

Continuous Movement June Arnold

New Places, Ideas and Histories in Art Commissions

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Charlie Calder-Potts is a British artist and former Columbia Threadneedle Prize exhibitor. In the run-up to the 2016 prize we spoke to Charlie about her practice and the various commissions she has undertaken in the Middle East.

Charlie Calder-Potts is fascinated by the world. She delves into history and thoroughly researches what she sees to create large mixed media depictions of the places she visits. Her travels in the Middle East have led to captivating commissions that portray the displacement of people and the destruction of ancient sites. Her frequent visits to her sister in Lebanon have exposed her to historical ruins, which she has played games with her nephews amongst. This has evoked an intimate link between the history of the places she visits and the artwork she creates.

Charlie Calder-Potts, From moment then to moment

Charlie Calder-Potts, From moment then to moment

Charlie views the process of commissioning as a way of introducing her to different places, ideas and histories: ‘It’s a really important process, and one that needs to be sustained’. Her exhibition in Dubai led to a commission in Iraq, where she was hosted by a family who guided her to new ideas by taking her to historical sites such as the 4000 year old holy village of Lalish. There she was introduced to the Yezidi refugees, a group severely persecuted by ISIS, who have become a focus of Charlie’s Iraq series.

Charlie Calder-Potts, Whatever is Written

Charlie maintains that, ‘without the clients hosting me and showing me their world, I wouldn’t have embarked on this series of work. Their commission was hugely influential for me, and it has opened up a whole range of opportunities.’ The process of commissioning remains to be a two-way process that has enabled Charlie to discover new places, whilst ensuring that the client plays an integral part in the work.

Charlie’s work represents the interconnected nature of the world. She explores countries in the Middle East and merges them with the West to deconstruct perceptions fuelled by media that suggest that the Middle East is solely dangerous. Charlie draws upon the influence of Persian manuscripts on much of Western history and affirms that, ‘Our history is all connected, we have all influenced each other’.  

Charlie Calder-Potts, When Shadows Pass

Despite our increase in immediate access to news and information about other countries, Charlie sees an increasing disconnect between cultures, something that she wishes to break down. This desire to forge connections between seemingly disparate people and places has led her to Afghanistan, where she was the official war artist for the British Army. During her time in the Helmand province she used scrap metal from tanks upon which she painted civilians and the military.

Charlie is also excited by all the places within the UK that she is yet to discover, and she views commissioning as a crucial process that opens up ideas, ‘you can only read so many books or stumble across things, but someone can always bring a project to you’. She wishes for people to continue sharing their special places with her, whether it be a local medieval church or crumbling ruins, as an opportunity for her to scratch into the layers of history and uncover past stories.

Charlie Calder-Potts, The Dreadless Angel

An artwork commission is a personalised experience that is different for everyone, at Mall Galleries we employ Art Consultants to guide you through the process of commissioning an artwork from choosing an artist to choosing an artwork that is suitable for your home or business.


By Sophia Siddiqui

Find out more information regarding Mall Galleries Art Consultancy

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Charlie Calder-Potts, Whatever is Written (detail)

Toby Ward NEAC: Interrogating the past with art commissions

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The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition was at Mall Galleries in June 2015. We spoke to Toby Ward NEAC about his commission pieces for Westminster Abbey.

Toby Ward NEAC has a fascination for human activity and the way we interact with the world around us, particularly through the collaborative process of commissions. He combines his experiences with fragments of memory and imagination to document history, the changing architecture of London and individual lives in a way of piecing together the past. 

Toby Ward, The Village Event

Interaction is central to Toby’s commissions, ‘There are no limits. It’s tremendous fun and I find commissions interesting and a challenge’. Toby has worked with a range of people, including individuals, groups of people and whole organisations. But what remains a constant is the relationships he builds with the people around him, ‘I always interact with the people I am working with. I don’t think of myself as purely a cold outsider. That’s part of the fun - enjoying other people’s company and becoming an insider’. There is always an active element in what Toby does and he enjoys capturing the interactions of different people, ‘You get an idea of the subject as a living and moving figure that is not fixed’.

Toby Ward, Lincoln Cathedral

Toby is currently six months into his three-year commission at Westminster Abbey. For the first time since 1740, the fabric of Westminster Abbey is being altered to create a state of the art museum. Toby is documenting the development of refurbishment, observing closely the entire journey alongside the builders, archaeologists and architectures that are working on the project. He has observed over 4000 bin bags of dust being removed from the attic of Westminster Abbey, and has sifted through fragments of priceless artefacts alongside archaeologists, ‘Other people’s rubbish is our history. It’s so interesting piecing it all together’. Toby has also documented a year in the life of Lincoln Cathedral in 2013, where as well as representing changes to the building, he maintains his fascination with the individual by ensuring that there is a portrait element to his work. He includes precise details of workers producing fresh stonework to depict the constant ongoing process of repair and development that occurred during his residency, whilst also ensuring that individuals remain recognisable in his work.

Toby Ward, Lincoln Cathedral

Toby’s past commissions have also included very personal, one-on-one partnerships. One of the most moving projects he has worked on was with an 86 year old man who had recently had a stroke. He wished to work with Toby to illustrate his life in retrospect. Toby would meet the man for two hours per week, and listen to stories about his life, which Toby would then transform into pictures. Together they produced a book of drawings together. Toby affirms that, ‘It was an amazing project to work with one man to realise what his life looked like. It was a very moving process to be a part of’. 

Toby Ward, Lincoln Cathedral

The process of commissioning is never fixed. The dialogue between the client and the artist is something that continually develops, and he finds working with someone who has the vision and enthusiasm for the piece of art to exist very rewarding. Whether he is documenting the three year refurbishment of a Church or painting the entire life of an individual, collaboration remains central, as a way of piecing together the past and documenting the passage of time.

By Sophia Siddiqui


An artwork commission is a personalised experience that is different for everyone, at Mall Galleries we employ Commission Consultants to guide you through the process of commissioning an artwork from choosing an artist to choosing an artwork that is suitable for your home or business.

If you would like to find out more information regarding commissioning an artwork or book a private consultation, click here.

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Toby Ward, New Flat Screen TV (detail)